Official: India received intel on Mumbai attacks - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Official: India received intel on Mumbai attacks

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Posted: Monday, December 1, 2008 10:55 pm | Updated: 10:59 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

MUMBAI, India - India picked up intelligence in recent months that Pakistan-based terrorists were plotting attacks against Mumbai targets, an official said Tuesday, as the government demanded that Pakistan take "strong action" against those behind the deadly rampage.

The U.S., meanwhile, pressured Islamabad to cooperate with the investigation.

The only known surviving attacker told police that his group trained for months in camps operated by a banned Pakistani militant group, learning close-combat techniques, explosives training and other tactics for their three-day siege.

India's foreign intelligence agency received information as recently as September that Pakistan-based terrorists were plotting attacks against Mumbai targets, according to a government intelligence official familiar with the matter.

The information was then relayed to domestic security officials, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to talk publicly about the details.

The revelation comes as the government faces widespread accusations of security and intelligence failures in the Mumbai terrorist attacks that left 172 people dead and 239 injured.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has promised to strengthen maritime and air security and look into creating a new federal investigative agency, was expected to meet Tuesday with top security aides.

Already, the country's top law enforcement official has resigned and two top state officials have offered to quit amid growing criticism that the attackers appeared better trained, better coordinated and better armed than police.

Teams from the FBI and Britain's Scotland Yard met Monday with top Indian police as they prepared to help collect evidence, a police official said.

On Monday, soldiers removed the remaining bodies from the shattered Taj Mahal hotel, where the standoff finally ended Saturday morning. The army had already cleared other siege sites, including the five-star Oberoi hotel and the Mumbai headquarters of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group.

India's financial hub returned to normal Monday to some degree, with parents dropping their children off at school and shopkeepers opening for the first time since the attacks, which Indian authorities blamed on the banned Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

While the cross-border rhetoric between Pakistan and India has increased since the attacks, both countries — by their often-antagonistic standards — carefully refrained from making statements that could quickly lead to a buildup of troops along their heavily militarized frontier.

In India, Pakistan's high commissioner to the country met with Foreign Ministry officials and was told that "elements from Pakistan" had carried out the attacks, said ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash. His phrasing, though, carefully avoided blaming the Pakistani government.

The commissioner was told that India "expects that strong action would be taken against those elements," Prakash said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will visit India later this week, said the perpetrators of attacks "must be brought to justice."

Pakistan must "follow the evidence wherever it leads," she said during a visit in London. "This is a time for complete, absolute, total transparency and cooperation, and that's what we expect."

Pakistan has repeatedly insisted it was not behind the attacks. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said Monday the gunmen were "non-state actors," and warned against letting their actions lead to greater regional enmity.

"Such a tragic incident must bring opportunity rather than the defeat of a nation," Zardari told Arj television. "We don't think the world's great nations and countries can be held hostage by non-state actors."

Pakistan said its foreign secretary "condemned the barbaric attacks" and again pledged his country's cooperation during a meeting Monday with India's high commissioner in Islamabad.

The sole surviving attacker, Ajmal Qasab, told police that his group trained over about six months in camps operated by Lashkar in Pakistan, learning close-combat techniques, hostage-taking, handling of explosives, satellite navigation, and high-seas survival skills, according to two Indian security officials familiar with the investigation. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the details.

Lashkar was banned in Pakistan under pressure from the U.S. in 2002, a year after Washington and Britain listed it a terrorist group.

Qasab told investigators the militants hijacked an Indian vessel and killed three crew members, keeping the captain alive long enough to guide them into Mumbai, the two security officials said.

The men, ages 18-28, then came ashore in a dinghy at two different Mumbai areas before slipping into the city in two teams, officials said. The gunmen struck at several sites, including a train station, where they mowed down police and passersby; the Jewish center; and the two luxury hotels, representing the city's wealth and tourism, reportedly seeking out Westerners.

A Muslim cemetery rejected the corpses of the nine dead gunmen and its officials said "Islam does not permit this sort of barbaric crime."

While some Muslim scholars disagreed with the decision — saying Islam requires a proper burial for every Muslim — the city's other Muslim graveyards are likely to do the same.

The 19 foreigners killed were Americans, Germans, Canadians, Israelis and nationals from Britain, Italy, Mexico, Japan, China, Thailand, Australia, Singapore and Mexico.

Indian officials said their country would persevere.

"This is a threat to the very idea of India, the very soul of India," said Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, the country's top law enforcement official. "Ultimately the idea of India — that is a secular, plural, tolerant and open society — will triumph."

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